Objectives of a Survey

Surveys tap into people's opinions, behaviors and demographics.
Surveys tap into people's opinions, behaviors and demographics. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Surveys represent convenient and effective data-collection tools. Many organizations use these questionnaires to ask people about their opinions and behaviors. This style of research requires clearly defined objectives before any study gets underway. The poll itself should be brief to keep respondents from growing bored and refusing to answer any further questions. Likewise, the purpose of the survey must be equally simple. Otherwise, the person or business who commissions the analysis may end up with meaningless or duplicate information.


Surveys measure relationships, such as the connection between an employer and its workers or between a business and its clients. The objective of a satisfaction survey defines what the survey taker is looking for, such as the workforce's reaction to a new employment policy or changes in consumer needs. Results guide companies on whether they should take risks in rolling out new products or programs. Without this focus, a company may end up inserting irrelevant questions that offer little insight, according to the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge website.


Some questionnaires compare organizations against their competitors. For example, political polls gather information ranging from which candidate leads in an election to which demographic groups plan to vote for that contender. Similarly, businesses use industry-wide compensation data to benchmark themselves against other employers and their pay scales. Survey objectives that track rivals can signal a need for change, such as a candidate who concentrates on garnering more labor union support or an organization that increases its hourly wages to slow the turnover rate among its workforce.


Event surveys are intertwined with customer complaints. These polls ask about recent experiences, such as whether a consumer has complaints about his last visit to a home remodeling store. The objectives differ from a standard customer satisfaction survey because the owner only wants data on the most recent transactions, not on the overall loyalty to that merchant, says feedback management consultant Fred Van Bennekom on the Great Brook Consulting website. Organizations that implement event surveys must have steps in place to react to those customers who claimed to suffer negative experiences.


Research surveys uncover statistics rather than respondents' behaviors or viewpoints. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau collected personal details on the 308.7 million people living in the United States in 2010. This data shows population distribution across the country, including areas that gained and lost the highest number of residents. Census survey results break down the demographics of Americans including ethnicity, age and gender. Outcomes of this research include apportionment of governmental funds and legislative representation.

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